Jack Harlow showcases the lyrical skills that earned him a spot in the 2020 XXL Freshman Class in his first freestyle since his induction.
The rising rapper, whose "What's Poppin (Remix)" featuring DaBaby, Lil Wayne and Tory Lanez has hit the No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, begins with a proclamation centered on keeping his record clean. "Welcome to the season finale/Gotta move without mistakes ’cause they keepin' a tally/We had plans for makin' millions then leavin' for Cali/Now the city's on fire, even in Cali, postponed," he raps.
The Louisville, Ky. native also delivers heartfelt bars dedicated to David McAtee, a 53-year-old Black man from Jack's hometown who was killed at YaYa's BBQ, the barbecue stand McAtee owned.
"Last night, the people learned how to throw stones/So they shooting gas at ’em to make sure they go home/In the past, it ain't last, but it's all changed/The word is unturned, how we leaving no stone," the 22-year-old lyricist spits. "Killed him outside and they left him stone-cold/Left him on the street and left his family with a broke home/Barbecue man with a business, homegrown/Even gave away plates to the fellas on patrol," rhymes Jack, who joined a Breonna Taylor protest in support of Black Lives Matter in June.
Several reports indicate McAtee was cooking food for the many people hanging out around Dino’s gas station and food mart across the street when national guard troops and Louisville metro police department officers arrived to break up the crowd.
Authorities claim the men and women were outside past the curfew imposed by the citywide protests taking place in honor of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Officers began shooting pepper balls at the people near YaYa's BBQ, which caused everyone to flee in panic. When McAtee, who was in the kitchen, stepped back outside, his right hand was allegedly on his hip where he appeared to be wearing a gun. He reportedly raised his arm in the air and was then shot.
This freestyle is just the latest display of the young rapper's metamorphosis from the boastful bars that populated his Gazebo mixtape in 2017, to delivering a cleverly articulated political statement about the state of the world. With skillfully crafted one-liners settled onto production, Jack has fortified an undeniable place in hip-hop. He's already released eight projects since 2011, amassed a cosign from Lil Wayne, and his "What's Poppin (Remix)" is now one of the most popular songs of the summer and a slow burner that is sure to survive the winter.
Now that the soft-spoken Generation Now/Atlantic Records artist, born Jackman Thomas Harlow, is a 2020 XXL Freshman, he's got solid footing in the culture. "You’re kinda immortalized in the genre in a way," he shares. "So [this is] a huge deal to me."
He also believes the Freshman cover is one step in the right direction. "I feel an innate responsibility, and [being a Freshman] adds to it," Jack expresses. "More than anything, this feels like the type of validation that confirms something inside for me that I am who I thought I was. I'm headed in the right direction. So, if anything, it just lets me know that I'm doing the right thing. It's just gonna be a nice boost."
Jack Harlow's love for hip-hop began at age 12, with influences like OutKast, Eminem and A Tribe Called Quest pushing him to bedroom recording sessions and SoundCloud uploads. From there, an unstoppable following developed and it only continues to grow.
Years later, Jack has more than doubled his discography with 18, Confetti, Sweet Action and more since releasing his Extra Credit mixtape in 2011. He's even found himself on the receiving end of a platinum plaque for the original version of "What's Poppin" and graced multiple facets of the Billboard charts.
While the numbers of it all are just one small part of what makes an up-and-coming rapper a budding star, Jack Harlow's freestyle is another indication that the skills match the hype. As Jack prepares to ascend past Freshman, he's taking charge of his platform and using his voice to speak on important matters that affect those around him.
Watch Jack Harlow's 2020 XXL Freshman freestyle, powered by Rap Caviar, below.
See the 2020 XXL Freshman Class